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From Products Liability Law Daily, September 4, 2018

Federal jury awards $4.8M to driver injured in Ford Explorer rollover

By Kathleen Bianco, J.D.

A federal jury in Texas entered a $4.8 million verdict against Ford Motor Company in a product liability action brought by a driver who suffered a traumatic amputation of his arm in a single-vehicle rollover accident. In reaching this conclusion, the jury determined that a design defect was a producing cause of the driver’s injury but also found that the driver’s negligence had contributed to his injuries. The jury found the defective vehicle 90 percent responsible and the driver 10 percent responsible (Leos-Ortiz v. Ford Motor Co., August 29, 2018).

The driver of a 1999 Ford Explorer filed suit against Ford Motor Company, the vehicle’s manufacturer, seeking damages for injuries he sustained in a single-vehicle rollover. The driver alleged in his complaint that he was operating the 1999 Ford Explorer when he suddenly, and without warning, lost control, causing the vehicle to roll over. When the vehicle rolled over, the driver-side window shattered, resulting in the traumatic amputation of the driver’s left arm. The driver asserted design defect and/or defective marketing claims based on, among other things, one or more of the following: inadequate occupant protection systems; inadequate stability; inadequate handling characteristics; lack of "advanced glazing" on windows; and inadequate structural integrity of the vehicle’s side windows to withstand foreseeable forces during a rollover. The complaint also sought punitive damages arising from a gross negligence allegation against the manufacturer.

Jury findings. Following a trial, the jury was asked if there was a design defect in the 1999 Ford Explorer for which a safer alternative design existed and, if so, whether it was a producing cause of the injury. The jury’s affirmative answer established liability against the vehicle’s manufacturer. Next, the jury answered "yes" to the question of whether the negligence of the driver proximately caused the injury in question. Finally, the jury allocated responsibility for the injury, finding the defective vehicle 90 percent responsible and the driver 10 percent responsible.

Damages. As to damages, the jury determined past damages to be $3,300,000, and future damages to be $1,500,001. The question of punitive damages was not addressed in the verdict form.

The case is No. M-11-158.

Attorneys: S. Scott West (The West Law Firm) for Jose Leos Ortiz. Jaime Arturo Saenz (Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez & Kennamer LLP) and Michael Wayne Eady (Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons, LLP) for Ford Motor Co.

Companies: Ford Motor Co.

MainStory: TopStory JuryVerdictsNewsStory DesignManufacturingNews DamagesNews MotorVehiclesNews TexasNews

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